A Deep Dive into Swarm: Decentralized Storage and Communication System

Markets Jun 09, 2021

Last week, we announced the Swarm Token Sale on CoinList, starting June 14, 17:00 UTC. By design, Swarm is an economically self-sustaining system of peer-to-peer networked nodes that create a decentralized storage and communication service. This week, we sat down with the Swarm team to break down what they are building, its use cases, and recent traction in realizing their vision of becoming the operating system of the re-decentralized internet.

Let’s dive in:

1. What is Swarm and what problem does it solve?

Swarm is a peer-to-peer network of nodes that collectively provide a decentralised storage and communication service. It is economically self-sustaining due to a built-in incentive system that is enforced through smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain and powered by the BZZ token. Please refer to the Swarm White Paper for a detailed description of the network.

Swarm fosters freedom of information, responding to the growing demand for security on the web. Swarm solves the problem of decentralised incentivised storage. This means node operators are rewarded to keep the network healthy and running as intended. As for use-cases, we can think of deployment of user-interfaces to smart-contracts, storing the ever-growing state of blockchains or rollup chains, as well as scalable dapp hosting....

2. Why was Swarm built on top of Ethereum?

Swarm started as an Ethereum Foundation project. It was mostly the brainchild of Gavin Wood. The world computer analogy was elaborated to encompass the holy trinity of Ethereum, Swarm, and Whisper.

Most people in the ecosystem will be familiar with Ethereum, the processing part of the World Computer. Swarm was the storage part, and Whisper was foreseen as the messaging part. The Swarm project realized along the way that its storage primitives can be used for private and obfuscated messaging, which is now integrated in Swarm.

Swarm launches on Ethereum because this is to date the most decentralised and secure blockchain with smart-contract capabilities as well as a brilliant community of builders. However, the community and other blockchains are invited to build bridges and further grow Swarm’s ecosystem.

3. Who are Swarm network's target users? What sort of interactions do these users have on Swarm network?

Swarm is a base-layer infrastructure project that aims to be the foundation of the re-decentralised internet. This is a project that touches all humankind. The reason is that Swarm aims to solve a crucial problem the internet has today.

The cost of storage was always an important burden for people who developed content and apps. Yes, anyone could start a blog and thus have a worldwide voice, but with growing popularity of the content, the costs go up until the point where the original creator can no longer afford publishing their opinion. With web 2.0, this problem was addressed in a suboptimal manner for the users: big corporations paid for storage and bandwidth and in return, demanded ownership of the data.

Users’ data was eventually sold on data markets, creating massive profits for corporations controlling bandwidth and storage capacities. Privacy was out of the window, and power was accumulated by big corporations. People became their products. Their personal data was sold to marketing, lobbying and research companies. In return, people got “free” services like Facebook and Google.

With web3, new paradigms and economies became possible. However, until there are solid, decentralised storage systems, web3 dApps will continue to store data in centrally controlled environments.

Swarm’s mission is to provide web3 with such a solution.

4. How does Swarm distribute and store data across the Swarm network? How does it ensure continued availability of this data?

Please refer to the Swarm White Paper for a detailed description. In short, when a user uploads data to the network, this data is split up in small chunks. The nodes know where a certain chunk is and can serve it back to another user. The incentive model makes sure that node operators are rewarded for the discovery, the storage and the propagation of chunks.

5. How does the Swarm network enable a fair data economy? In other words, what are the incentives for using Swarm and operating a network node?

The Swarm Accounting Protocol (SWAP) ensures that node operators are motivated to collaborate in routing messages, while simultaneously providing protection against frivolous messaging. Swarm incentives are about ensuring that node operators collaborate.

A fair data economy is enabled and can be built on top of Swarm, to allow users to decide, for instance, to keep their data private, sell it on data markets, or donate it to research institutions of their choice, amongst many other possibilities.

6. What are some of the most exciting Swarm use cases?

As developers, we are excited about any data flowing through the network. But freedom of press and information sharing, Content creation with incentives (NFT’s) and secure communications seem to be the most practical use cases to start with.

To give a few examples, here are a some projects already building on Swarm:

  • ZetaSeek is a search engine with the primary focus of being used by each user separately — to organise their files, links and references in uploaded content to upcoming p2p storage networks.
  • Upala is building an anti-Sybil system for dApps. It provides a digital identity uniqueness score valued in dollars.
  • GetLoginEth is a Đapp for providing a decentralised single sign-on solution for Ethereum-based social applications.
  • Waggle - A spam-free, secure and decentralised email service on top of Swarm, inspired by the idea of a mail-transfer protocol proposed by Daniel J. Bernstein in which the sender, and not the recipient, is responsible for storing the email messages.
  • Swarmify wants to use Swarm for decentralised & fair music streaming.
  • Embedded Swarm on RISC-V - Imagine Swarm in every fridge, TV, or IoT device. The potential impact is significant.

And that is only a few. You can check more projects in the Swarm ecosystem here: https://www.ethswarm.org/ecosystem.html

7. What is the use case for the BZZ token?

The BZZ token is an ERC20-compatible utility token, used by node operators and end-users alike.

Swarm nodes engage in the Swarm Accounting Protocol to track relative bandwidth contribution, while unequal consumption is ultimately settled in BZZ.

Content uploaders must purchase a batch of postage stamps so that they attach one to each chunk generated from their uploaded content in order to indicate their wish to keep the chunk in advance. Storer nodes use this signal to persist the highest-valued chunks, thus optimizing the utility of the DISC.

Any L2 solution that could contribute to scaling Swarm. And of course we are looking forward to all the projects that are going to use Swarm in their dapps and solutions. NFTs and storage of their content is a use case we follow closely.

9. What is the best way for the community to get involved in Swarm?

You can contribute to the network by actively interacting with it, storing and transferring data, running Bee on testnet, running Bee on mainnet, building dapps, contributing to source code, promoting its adoption by users and projects, etc. Check out the website www.ethswarm.org. In the footer you will find links to Swarm social media and chat communities.

Register for the Swarm Token Sale on CoinList here

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